Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 47 Number 3, February 25, 2017 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

From the North East Political Forum on the Future of Society

The Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign
and the Building of an Unstoppable Movement

The following remarks were given at the North East Political Forum on the Future of Society by invited guest speaker Gemma Taylor, Co-ordinator of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC). She is an area organiser for Unison in South Tyneside.

Since the formation of the SSTHC, this work has brought people together from trade unions in the hospital, people in the community, MPs, councillors and political parties into a campaign where the people decide, working out their aims and actions regardless of political views. Those who lead, lead on the basis of working to keep the initiative in the hands of those who are fighting to save the hospital and dealing with uniting people in a very careful way, all from the point of view of releasing the initiative of the people to take action in defence of their hospital acute services and safeguarding the future of the NHS.

The campaign in South Tyneside has reached the stage that 30 or so people meet every two weeks and this where we agree to take important actions to try and engage with members of the public around what is happening in the NHS - we have had stalls and petitions and leaflets. Our petition has now well over 15,000 signatures. This shows the work that has been done in South Tyneside which has moved on to Sunderland to try and engage people around any consultation that might take place so that they might have a say in what happens to the future of their hospital and their NHS. We had a first march and rally last October through the town where hundreds took part showing that it is a very organised force comprising of all the forces I mentioned working together. How to release the initiative of the people and make this movement unstoppable is very much the problem we are all grappling with and how such discussions as today can assist the movement if only in presenting the right questions and posing the problems that need to be solved.

Newcastle March and Rally - "It's Our NHS", February 4, 2017

The question of making the movement unstoppable in achieving its aims for a new future for society cannot just be reduced, as it does get reduced, to one of just pressurising those in power to back down on their acute hospital closure programme and so on. Important as those things are, we think that the most important question we should never lose sight of is being part of the people's movement to change the direction of society and doing everything to try and keep the initiative in the hands of the most progressive forces of the health workers, clinicians and most importantly the working class movement. The issue is building pro-social movements along with others in many parts of the country. It is this tapping into new forces such as clinicians, and expanding the influence of the alternative programme of the working class movement right across society, that will ultimately determine the outcome of the aims of our movement.

Put another way, making the movement unstoppable is about mobilising the people to change the things they can change, seizing what is in their grasp with the approach of the necessity to change society. It is about maximum political mobilisation around that. In other words, how can we develop so that we end up as a powerful movement that deprives the government and the big corporations they represent of the power to deprive the people of what belongs to them by right, the right to health care!

There are some examples of this. For example, is this not what Lewisham did when the whole of the people of Lewisham took Hunt to court and won. That deprived him of that power to take away their A&E and acute services against their will. Of course he and the government then changed the law so they could do this again but their direction became even further exposed in doing so. However, the question it raises shows that this is something very important to sum up, not in terms that we can all take court cases against Hunt and win. We cannot. We can only control what we can control within our circumstances; but the issue is how to uphold the principle of developing a mass movement with this approach. For example, at this time there are government NHS national and local leaders that represent this direction to deprive us of our NHS and our hospital. We are organising ourselves with this perspective to deprive them of the power to deprive us of our hospital and its services by building a campaign to save South Tyneside Hospital.

We want to concentrate on the approach that is fundamental to changing the direction of society that is reflected in movements of the people to safeguard the NHS. We are building that movement which has this potential today, the potential to shape a new future for society that reflects what is new in our hospitals, our NHS and our workplaces based on our outlook for a modern society where health care is a right and that right is guaranteed.


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